Review: The Beast of Callaire, by Saruuh Kelsey (Rating: 3/5)

kelsey-The Beast of CallaireThe Beast of Callaire, by Saruuh Kelsey (The Legend Mirror #1)
Publisher: Self-Published (May 2014)
Page Count: 200 pages
Genre: Lesbian (F/F) YA Romance/Fantasy

Rating: 3 out of 5

* I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. *

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Summary: Yasmin is a descendant of the Manticore: a Legendary. But she doesn’t want to be. Unlike the Legendaries in The Red, Yasmin wants nothing more than an ordinary life. She tries to fool herself into believing that she doesn’t change into a beast every full moon and savagely kill innocent people.

But when Yasmin starts hearing a voice in her head and is drawn into dreams that aren’t her own, she is led to Fray— a girl who once saved Yasmin from hunters, who has shadowy memories that hint at her having Legendary magic— and Yasmin is catapulted into a life of Majick and malevolence.

My Thoughts: It took me several false starts to really get into this novel. I was confused right from the start with the mythology and strange terminology, and found myself struggling to sink into the story. However, once I sorted out the difference between Numen and Crea and all the rest, I was able to get through the book at last.

The story follows Yasmin, the daughter of two mythological creatures– her father is a Manticore, and her mother is the goddess Venus– as she battles her own nature and desperately wishes for normalcy. Every full moon, she changes into a Manticore herself, and becomes a mindless beast that kills anything in its path. She’s also cursed with magic from her mother’s side, making her a bit of a freak in the supernatural world… someone who has magic and also shifts at the full moon.

I did really love that this novel had such a diverse cast of characters. Yasmin is a lesbian, and her girlfriend Fray is bisexual. Yasmin’s friend is transgender, and there are several POC in the mix. It’s fantastic to see so many groups represented in a YA novel.

Unfortunately, the diversity was not enough to make up for the plot and pacing issues. The novel is pretty short, but there’s a LOT of mythology and plot jammed into it. I felt overwhelmed at times, and had to backtrack to figure out what I’d missed. The language was strange, too; using “Majick” instead of “magic” was honestly just bizarre. I also found the relationship between Yasmin and Fray to be very unsatisfying, because it didn’t move very organically; Fray goes from fear and distrust to curiosity to attraction very quickly, and suddenly the two young women are in a relationship. But I never picked up on any attraction building on Yasmin’s end, until suddenly, bam, they’re kissing? Sorry, not believable.

It’s not all negative, though! The plot was interesting, and the villain was intriguing. Yasmin isn’t a badass heroine, but she’s no weakling, either; and even though she’s been given special favors by the gods themselves, she doesn’t flaunt it, or even seem to care. I like that she’s just a normal girl, trying to keep her family and friends safe.

I’m hoping that Book 2, The Dryad of Callaire, will prove easier to read in terms of plot, since a lot of the mythology has already been explained in Book 1, freeing up the second novel for more focus on plot and characterization. (Book 2 is out later this month.)

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